The Sangeet Natak Akademi Award-winning playwright Swadesh Deepak’s son Sukant Deepak and art management expert Nagina Bains have recently set up ‘Elsewhere Foundation’ in the memory of the playwright and the author. Headquartered in Chandigarh, the foundation endeavors to curate performances, film screenings, art exhibitions and workshops, lectures, art appreciation workshops, and book readings, and facilitate collaborations between different art forms across the country. “The purpose of the foundation is to bring the best of arts to different regions of the country. Though headquartered in Chandigarh for logistics reasons, we are not geographically confined to a particular city. We are very clear that while the foundation is in the memory of Swadesh Deepak, its purpose is not to promote his works. He would have never liked that,” explains Sukant Deepak.
Swadesh Deepak has to credit more than 19 books which include short stories, novels, plays, and a memoir. His play ‘Court Martial,’ for which he received the prestigious Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, is one of the most successful plays in the history of Indian theatre. His memoir ‘Meine Mandu Nahin Dekha’, a unique fractured collage and documentation of his years as a bipolar disorder patient, was recently translated by Jerry Pinto as ‘I Have Not Seen Mandu.’ Swadesh Deepak went for a walk on June 2016 from his Ambala house and never returned.
Marking the foundation’s inauguration, Mahmood Farooqui’s ‘Dastan-e-Karn Az Mahabharat’ was organized at Rock Garden, Chandigarh on November 16, 2022. “We wanted this to be the first presentation by Elsewhere as it talks about the ‘other’ (Karna). Swadesh Deepak’s writings have always been about highlighting the oppressed, laying bare the fault lines in society, and attacking the prevalent caste structure,” reveals Sukant. The foundation’s advisory board includes Padma Bhushan awardee Mallika Sarabhai, Padma Shri awardee Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry, Sahitya Akademi Award-winning author and poet Jerry Pinto, poet and critic Nirupama Dutt, and Chander Trikha, Director, Haryana Sahitya Akademi and Haryana Urdu Akademi, among others.
Sukant feels that the changing paradigms in the world of arts and culture have also opened up new avenues to explore. “We are living in exciting times where there are no binaries in arts and collaborations have become a thing – and we would like to be part of this. For us, the entire experience of art making and presenting it to the audience is also important. We would like to speak out about the times we are living in through the arts,” explains Sukant. Co-founder Nagina Bains has extensive experience with top companies in the fields of media, art management and hospitality. “In my professional and personal journey, Elsewhere Foundation comes closest to my core. We would like to present the work of artists belonging to one region, to another. Also, the foundation has a much bigger purpose than just shows. Art education, interactions with artists and working on social themes by commissioning art projects are high on our agenda,” avers Bains.
In the coming months, Elsewhere Foundation plans to travel to different parts of the countries with some experimental productions. “We are already in talks with several artists from theatre, fine arts, music, and Performance artists. Also, it is important to note that Elsewhere’s aim is not just to present productions, but to involve the young in the process of art making.
As mentioned before, art, theatre, and film appreciation, and talking about contemporary political and social issues through arts are extremely important to us,” sums up Sukant Deepak who has been writing on art and culture for two decades now.
His essay, ‘Papa, Elsewhere’ was part of the anthology ‘A Book of Light,’ published by Speaking Tiger. He is currently translating an anthology of Swadesh Deepak’s stories, to be published in 2023.